Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 11, 2012 at 9:25 AM
Here's the straight truth about this year's NCAA Tournament 68-team field - it shouldn't be as difficult to fill in all the blanks as you're being led to believe by the mass media.
Just consider that prior to the start of this College Basketball Conference Tournament Week, there probably were six or seven legitimate "bubble teams" from among the six power conferences and suffice to say Seton Hall, Tennessee, Northwestern, Arkansas and Miss State didn't do nearly enough to get in while Connecticut, Texas and N.C. State did get "mission accomplished".
Case closed as far as we are concerned and - if anything - we see that scenario thus allowing an at-large bid (and maybe two) from the non-power conferences being doled out and so a word of advice to the NCAA Tournament Selection guys and carve out a spot in this tourney for Colonial Athletic Association regular-season champ Drexel and don't give it another thought!
If we could make a blanket statement to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee it would be this:
Let's get as close to a 50-50 split between the six power conference - that's the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC - and the non-power conferences and when in doubt grab a mid-major that had a big-time regular season over a sixth- or seventh-placed power conference club. Okay, so we've been railing about this for years but if you happened to see the TV graphic that popped up all over the place this past weekend showing more than a handful of non-power conference teams have made it to the Sweet 16 or beyond since 2008 than you know these teams have just as much right as a team that sports a sub-.500 conference record in one of those big leagues.
Obviously, there's a whole slew of other key items that must be addressed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee folks and here's some of 'em right off the top of our head:
The #1 Seeds:
It's safe to say that Kentucky and Syracuse locked down two of these berths a while ago with their respective 30-plus win seasons and we believe Kansas blew its shot at landing a #1 seed by losing in the Big 12 Tourney semifinal round on Friday night against gritty/gutty Baylor (yes, we know ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Kansas as a #1 seed but we flat-out think he's wrong).
Simply put the ACC Championship Game winner - should that be 5 ½-point favorite North Carolina -- deserves a berth on the #1 seed line for the Tar Heels topple Florida State and ditto for a #1 NCAA Tourney seed for Missouri Tigers (30-4) who copped the Big 12 championship with their electric 90-75 win against Baylor.
There is some sentiment to making today's Big 10 champs -- whether it's 1 ½-point fav Ohio State or underdog Michigan State - as a #1 seed whoever gets the "W" in the last game played before the Selection Show but we'll go in this order: Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina (if it wins) and Missouri. If Carolina loses than slot in the Big 10 champs here.
We know that you weren't asking who's on the #2 seed line for the NCAAs but we'll make our Jim Sez recommendations just the same:
Here it's Kansas, than the Big 10 Championship Game winner between Ohio State versus Michigan State, Duke and Florida State should the Seminoles upset North Carolina. If the 'Noles lose here than it's a #3 seed and make Marquette the final #2 seed. Got it, guys?
We'll get to more NCAA Tournament Selection Show topics in a moment but first this key reminder ...
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How to Handle the "Tricky" Seeds Here
No question that there are three teams that pose major seeding questions for the NCAA Tournament Selection folks and they are #11 Murray State (30-1), #16 Wichita State (27-5) and Conference USA champions (and currently unranked) Memphis (26-8) - heck, we've heard variations on where all three should be seeded but the NCAA Tourney folks would be wise to heed our advice:
Murray State enjoyed a blockbuster year that included a key Bracket Buster home win against Saint Mary's and it's only right that the Racers get a #4 seed or a #5 seed at worst;
Wichita State's semifinal exit from the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament knocked down the Shockers a peg but keep in mind this club played some strong non-conference foes and paddled host Davidson by 17 points on Bracket Buster weekend. Give Wichita State a #6 seed and nothing lower;
Finally, there's Memphis who won the C-USA Tourney on its own home floor - again - and note the Tigers have won seven in a row and 11 of their last 12 games and so with arrow pointing up here we'll count on the committee folks doing the right thing and making Memphis no lower than a #7 seed.
Where to Ship the Big-Name Teams
There is always a sense of confusion here by hoop fans who generally don't understand one thing: Why is it that every year there is at least one lower-seeded team that sports a serious geographical advantage over a better seed?
Our answer: More often than not the NCAA Tourney folks don't (or can't) 100 percent properly locate all 64 teams (that follows these out-bracket games on Tuesday/Wednesday) and so you have instances where second-round games have a "home crowd advantage" for a #6 seed or an #8/#9 seed - it happens and sometimes there is not much one can do and we assure you someone out there will be screaming bloody murder when they have to play against a lower-seeded Pac-12 team in Portland or perhaps a middle-rung SEC team in Nashville.
All we know is that the country's top two seed lines - that's teams seeded 1-thru-8 - should get the benefit of the call in terms of geography and this is how we'd handle it based on a Carolina win against Florida State here in the ACC title tilt:
Kentucky should play first- and second-round games in Nashville
Syracuse should play their first/second-round tilts in Pittsburgh
North Carolina should stay put in the state and play in Greensboro
Missouri gets a first-week reward and plays its first two games in Omaha
Kansas also plays Round I and Round II games in Big 12-friendly Omaha
Ohio State/Michigan State plays early-round games in either Louisville (if it's the Buckeyes) or Columbus (if it's the Spartans)
Duke packs a lunch and plays its early-round games in Greensboro
Marquette makes the trek to Columbus for Round I and/or Round II tilts
Finally, make those bubble teams who do get in have to travel a rough road with low seeds and/or tough travels. For instance, we said up above in this Jim Sez Sunday column that Connecticut, Texas and N.C. State all did just enough to get into this 68-team field but make the UConn Huskies go in with a #12 seed and have 'em start out in Portland; Have Texas rated a #12 seed and force the Longhorns to play Round I in Greensboro; and make N.C. State a #11 seed but have 'em shift to the other coast and play in Portland.
Let's have some fun and put in the teams at #1-thru-68 ... what do you think?
1 - Kentucky vs. South Dakota State
2- Syracuse vs. Lehigh
3- North Carolina vs. Vermont/North Dakota
4- Missouri vs. Belmont/Norfolk State
5- Kansas vs. Loyola (Md.)
6- Ohio State vs. UNC-Asheville/LIU
7- Duke vs. Western Kentucky
8 - Marquette vs. Miss Valley State
9 - Michigan State vs. Lamar
10 - Baylor vs. Drexel
11 - Florida State vs. Montana
12 - Louisville vs. Detroit/Davidson
13 - Michigan vs. Ohio
14 - Vanderbilt vs. Colorado
15 - Murray State vs. Arizona
16 - Wisconsin vs. New Mexico State
17 - Wichita State vs. UNLV
18 - Georgetown vs. Texas
19 - Florida vs. Connecticut
20 - Notre Dame vs. N.C. State
21 - Cincinnati vs. Miami
22 - Virginia vs. Harvard
23 - Indiana vs. VCU
24 - Gonzaga vs. Washington
25 - San Diego State vs. Saint Louis
26 - Saint Mary's vs. Xavier
27 - Memphis vs. Iowa State
28 - West Virginia vs. New Mexico
29 - Kansas State vs. Southern Miss
30 - Creighton vs. Alabama
31 - South Florida vs. Colorado State
32 - Purdue vs. Temple
NOTE: Get all our NCAA Tournament News, Notes & Previews in this week's editions of Jim Sez.